BOISE — An Eagle man accused of concealing his mother’s body for months or possibly years after her death said he’d intended to bury her near her childhood home in northern Arizona, per her wishes.
William “Randy” Rhoton, 66, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two of the criminal charges he faced: destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and grand theft by deception. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April, and faces up to 19 years in prison. He was charged with several felonies in June, after family members became concerned when they did not hear from his mother, Barbara Rhoton, for a lengthy period of time. It’s not entirely clear when Barbara Rhoton, who was in her 90s, died, but family members had concerns about her whereabouts as early as 2016, they testified in an October court hearing.
When it did happen, prosecutors say Randy Rhoton did not report her death. Instead, they claim, he concealed her body, first in the massive home in Eagle where he lived with and cared for her, and then in his Chevrolet Suburban on a nearby property. In the meantime, he continued to collect and use money she received from her husband’s life insurance policy, which is why he faced the grand theft charge.
In court Wednesday, Rhoton admitted he’d hid his mother’s body even after he knew police were curious about her whereabouts. He said he’d suffered a traumatic brain injury prior to her death, and after her death he said he was trying to care for her body and respect her wishes to be buried in Arizona, near where she grew up.
“And I thought, ‘Well, if I can get her down there before law enforcement becomes involved, then I’ve fulfilled her wishes and what I wanted to do for her — and I was wrong,” Rhoton said.
He admitted to lying to police about where his mother was when they spoke with him at his home in June.
“I moved her body because when they came, law enforcement officers, I did not tell the truth, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll move her body and get her down to Meteor Crater,’” he said.
He tried to tell New York Life Insurance and the Social Security Administration about his mother’s death, he said in court Wednesday. Barbara Rhoton received benefits from the company as a widow, and was also receiving benefits from the federal government. That money was deposited into a bank account she and Rhoton shared. The administration and the company asked for a death certificate though, which Randy Rhoton couldn’t provide because he hadn’t reported his mother’s death.
“Rather than make some sort of effort to return the money to New York Life or to at least hold it, you spent it?” 4th District Court Judge Jason Scott asked Rhoton during the hearing.
“Yes sir,” Rhoton said.
Mark Manweiler, Rhoton’s attorney, told the judge they were considering for him to undergo a psychological evaluation at Rhoton’s expense, something Scott said he would allow.
Whitney Faulkner, the case’s prosecutor, asked the judge allot a full day in court for sentencing. Scott selected April 30 for the hearing.